German Chancellor Angela Merkel watches as a member of the German Navy's Special Forces boards from a speedboat Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Germany’s Great European Heist

Two seemingly reasonable principles guide German thinking about eurozone integration: responsibilities and control must be aligned; and legacy risks must be settled before any pooling of risks among euro members takes place. But what if France applied Germany’s approach to eurozone integration to the question of mutualizing defense commitments?

NEW YORK – Two mantras guide German thinking about eurozone integration: responsibilities and control must be aligned (so no mutualization of risk without shared jurisdiction); and legacy risks must be settled before any pooling of risks among euro members takes place. Since 2010, these two refrains have shaped the entire discussion of how to shore up the euro, and they largely account for the anemic progress being made on the creation of a European banking union. Germany is ready to embark on a common future, its leaders say, but only if Europe starts from a clean slate.

At first sight, that proposition seems reasonable enough. But to understand its full implications, try applying the same logic to another policy field: security and defense.

What if France applied Germany’s approach to eurozone integration to the question of mutualizing defense commitments? What if the French were to insist, as an absolute precondition for further security cooperation, that Germany not only increase its defense budget immediately, but also make good on its accumulated backlog in defense spending from recent decades?

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